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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:50 pm 
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In stead of launching an overview of this 'link' chapter, I thought I'd simply go into the aspect of pursuit and unseen threat, the enemy machinations.

While Tolkien gives us some more of his characteristic sense of history -"high they builded us" - and distance - Sam's confusion of the Mountains of Moria with Orodruin, an echo of The Hobbit - what gives the travelogue narrative urgency is the sense that the Enemy is vaguely present, just out of sight (I'm reminded of Kubrick's shots in The Shining, where you get the creepy feeling that there's something lurking just out of frame)..

Everything is watchful, no animals, no bird song (tho it is January!)- "it's quiet. Too quiet." Four times the something comes into view, but vaguely. The first is the "shadow" which passes over; the second the flock of crebain, which appear directed, and tied to Saruman, but whether the Co. hid from them successfully is left vague. The third, ramping up the threat, is the blizzard on Caradhras- but T remains deliberately ambiguous over whether this was 'enemy action' or an historically malignant mountain. Finally, (actually the next chapter), we have the (directed?) Warg attack. Wargs are intelligent, "Hounds of Sauron"- but is this a hunting pack, or a specifically Suronian intervention? And why do the bodies vanish? T again hints at a unified hostile mind, but never gets explicit.

The film's attributing the snowstorm to Saruman is a major weak point, another example of PJ just not 'getting it.' Because there is an aspect to LR, especially the actions of the Enemies (largely offstage) which perhaps moderns don't quite appreciate: lack of information.

Maybe because we live in an age of TV and spy satellites and reconnaissance drones, we 21st centuriates I think have a tendency to assume that knowledge is instantly available. But Tolkien was a WWI signals officer who worked with carrier pigeons and Very lights. (One of the many, many problems at the Somme was that HQ simply had no idea what was going on after the Tommies went over the top). If you wanted to communicate more than the most elementary information, you had to rely on a runner or dispatch rider.

And so in Middle Earth T was working in a world in which information was limited and very far from real-time. Look at this from Sauron's perspective: he had sent out the Riders in June, with nothing more to go on than Shire and Baggins, and the assumption that Baggins was a Gollum-like creature. The Witch-King didn't learn of Gollum's escape until July, when he met with the Nazgûl of Dol Guldur, and there is no evidence of contact with Barad-dûr. Sauron sent messengers in September, ordering the WK to go to Isengard- this change was prompted by Sauron's having learned of Boromir's dream and departure long after the fact.

After this Sauron was completely in the dark. He may have learned of the BR's visit to Isengard from Saruman via palantir- but Saruman almost certainly was no more truthful than he had to be. After that- Sauron knew nothing about where the Shire was, nothing about Frodo, nothing about the journey to Rivendell or the Battle of the Ford. Sauron first learned any of this when the Witch-king made his way back to Mordor, not long before the Fellowship set out.

So Sauron was groping. The most he had to go on was the existence of the natural choke-points: nobody could cross the Misty Mountains in winter north of Caradhras/Moria, and so to Moria S sent a detachment of Uruks. This ultimately would pay off, since the *first* fix Sauron would get on the ring would be after these agents sent bird-messages reporting the Coy's escape into Lórien.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:25 pm 
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Thanks, soli. I've stickied the thread (and unstickied the last one).

You make a good point about Tolkien's perspective about information-gathering. Although Sauron should have been able to have gathered more information from the palantír than just what he gleamed from Saruman. The palantír was, of course, the true "eye of Sauron" and I have always assumed that he had obtained some kind of information about the Nine Walkers from that source. Still, I think the vague and ambiguous nature of the storytelling here is definitely one of it's strengths; it is part of what allows the work to mean different things to different people. As I discuss briefly in in Arda Reconstructed, both Shippey and Flieger talk about Tolkien's use of the technique of withholding information. Shippey points out in The Road to Middle-earth that this offers “the assurance that there is more to Middle-earth than can immediately be communicated.” Flieger observes in Interrupted Music that Tolkien wrote in a letter to Christopher that “it is the untold stories that are the most moving.” (Letters, 110.)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:20 pm 
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I wonder if there is any significance to the fact that Tolkien, being Catholic, chose December 25th as the date of the Fellowship's departure from Rivendell.


Last edited by The Tall Hobbit on Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:30 pm 
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I have a feeling that there was significance. But I daresay we could argue till the cows come home as to what that significance was.

I chose then, and still do choose, to think it was The Solstice, if you follow me. Not so much the end of the old year, but the beginning of the new. But it certainly marks the end of the sun's journey for that year; for that one terribly long night, there is the fear that the Sun may not return, that the next day could be even shorter, until all is cold and dark forever.

I also think he chose the 25th rather than the actual date of the solstice to tie it into the commonly celebrated birth of the promised messiah.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:45 pm 
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A few more thoughts that occured to me as I reread the chapter:

Were Merry and Pippen really irate at Sam just because he sneaked into the council or because he sneaked into the council without them?

If Elrond's original plan to send Merry and Pippin to warn the Shire of the coming danger had been followed, could the desolation of the Shire as seen in the "Scouring of the Shire" have been avoided or at least diminished?

Did Bilbo really forget to have the elven smiths fix Frodo's sword, or was that just an excuse that he used to make sure that Frodo would take the "magical" sword sting with him?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:04 pm 
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The Tall Hobbit wrote:
If Elrond's original plan to send Merry and Pippin to warn the Shire of the coming danger had been followed, could the desolation of the Shire as seen in the "Scouring of the Shire" have been avoided or at least diminished?

There's a bit of foreshadowing there, that does not actually fores any shadows. Elrond is trying to prevent Pippin from going because Tolkien meant to kill him off. But thankfully, the dear Professor chose to do no more than slightly trample that impertinent hobbit.

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Did Bilbo really forget to have the elven smiths fix Frodo's sword, or was that just an excuse that he used to make sure that Frodo would take the "magical" sword sting with him?


I've always assumed that he meant Frodo to take Sting, regardless of the other sword. Which was, we later learn, quite special in its own right.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:35 pm 
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Actually the original departure date for a long time was November 24, one calendar month after Frodo's awakening. T later shifted it back a month to make the chronology work: "Too much takes place in winter. They should remain longer at Rivendell." The date was then shifted to Dec 24; later it was adjusted one day to keep the 1419 dates intact (since December has 31 days vice 30 for November).

"As a matter of fact, December 25 occurred strictly by accident, and I left it in to show that this was not a Christian myth anyhow. It was a purely unimportant date, and I thought, Well there it is, just an accident."


But he was very much aware of the seasonal symbolism (it's in Letters somewhere); and he couldn't have been unaware that (*after* much date-shifting) it was appropriate to have Barad-dûr fall on the Julian New Year (also "Lady Day" or the Feast of the Annunciation).


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:57 pm 
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solicitr wrote:
Actually the original departure date for a long time was November 24, one calendar month after Frodo's awakening. T later shifted it back a month to make the chronology work: "Too much takes place in winter. They should remain longer at Rivendell." The date was then shifted to Dec 24; later it was adjusted one day to keep the 1419 dates intact (since December has 31 days vice 30 for November).

"As a matter of fact, December 25 occurred strictly by accident, and I left it in to show that this was not a Christian myth anyhow. It was a purely unimportant date, and I thought, Well there it is, just an accident."


But he was very much aware of the seasonal symbolism (it's in Letters somewhere); and he couldn't have been unaware that (*after* much date-shifting) it was appropriate to have Barad-dûr fall on the Julian New Year (also "Lady Day" or the Feast of the Annunciation).


Well, I noticed the dates the first time I read the book. I didn't read the Appendix until about the 10th time I read the book. I was foolish, no doubt, but most of the time the appendix of a book isn't very interesting. ;)

Lady Day is also, more or less, the Vernal Equinox. Frodo and company left Bag End on - and Frodo and Bilbo's birthday falls - roughly at the Autumnal Equinox. Maybe all that means nothing, but I don't think so. It meant something to me, at any rate. :) It meant that Middle Earth was on this planet, for one thing.

http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/march-equinox.html


At various times in the story the phase of the Moon is important. Many "old timers" paid a lot of attention to the phases of the moon, and I wish I had. I have to look at the calendar if I want to know, and often I am not sure what the calendar is telling me. :oops: Samwise knew, anyway.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:39 am 
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I have a Google widgety thing on my startup page that shows me the phase of the moon. It's waning gibbous right now, 99%, just past full. . . .

It is important. That moment after Lothlórien when Sam sorts out the moon phases and realizes they've lost track of time is just wonderful.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:11 am 
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And keeping the moon phases straight gave Tolkien absolute fits! But he felt he had to get them right. Throughout his time-schemes he duly notes the lunar phases (w/ much correction) down the margin, and in the crucial period leading up to the Pelennor he even kept track of moonrise and moonset.

He does however cheat once- in the next chapter, when the moon shines on the ithildin traceries on Moria gate- it's impossible for a waning moon in the early evening. But Tolkien liked the scene so much he left it in anyway. And I don't think anyone ever noticed.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:59 am 
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I certainly didn't, and I usually do. Maybe it was that he was so careful everywhere else. A lot of writers don't bother; the full moon can rise at midnight if it makes a pretty scene.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:14 am 
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solicitr wrote:
He does however cheat once- in the next chapter, when the moon shines on the ithildin traceries on Moria gate- it's impossible for a waning moon in the early evening. But Tolkien liked the scene so much he left it in anyway. And I don't think anyone ever noticed.


Except you. :)

Seeing his work on the phases of the moon was probably the most interesting part of the manuscript exhibit that I saw at Fordham University when I was visiting New York last fall.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:21 am 
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Except you.


That was Wayne & Christina's pickup, I think. Unless CT spotted it first.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:38 am 
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I shoulda figured. And yes, Christopher noticed it first (see The Treason of Isengard, pp. 179-180 and the LOTR Reader's Companion, pp. 278-279.)

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:25 pm 
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There is one thing Tolkien does supremely well, although it is sometimes difficult to catch him "in the act" as it were, and that is to create a vast melancholy sense of loss, as time flows relentlessly and takes away much of the wonder of Middle-Earth. This chapter contains one example of this, with the Fellowship's visit to Hollin, sandwiched between their time in the still living Elven-kingdom of Rivendell, and their catastrophic entry into the ruined Dwarf-kingdom of Moria.

Hollin, where, we learn, that a race of elves once dwelt. Now - all gone. I love this:

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". ..and the trees and the grass do not now remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago."


Legolas doesn't do much, but, as an elf, he has a connection to the natural world which no other member of the Company has and here he is able to give a voice to Nature so that we see that even the stones mourn for the elves who have gone away.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 7:11 pm 
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Biblbo's song in this chapter, "I sit beside the fire and think", is one of my favorite bits of Tolkien poetry.

Reading back over it today got me to thinking about all of the changes that have taken place in the world in just my lifetime.

Many of the homes in the rural community where I grew up did not yet have indoor bathrooms (some had no indoor plumbing at all) and a few didn't even have electricity.

Just up the road from where I grew up there were many miles of farms and orchards which are now covered by housing developments and shopping malls.

TV's were black and white and recieved just a few channels through an antenna mounted on the roof if the weather conditions didn't interfere too much.
There was no internet and no cell phones.

From a technological standpoint, we have seen much progress over the last half century, but I wonder if in many ways we were not better off before.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 11:25 pm 
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I suspect that Tolkien would have agreed with you!

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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 7:54 pm 
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Any interest in continuing this discussion?

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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2010 8:10 pm 
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This is a busy time of year for a lot of people, including anyone in school, anyone teaching, or anyone with children in school. I suggest allowing some time for the crush of events to pass and things to settle down.

This discussion has had a hiatus or two, and yet it has always resumed.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2014 11:16 pm 
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There's a great little echo to The Hobbit I caught this time. Bilbo's initial reaction to seeing the Misty Mountains:
The Hobbit wrote:
"Is that The Mountain?" asked Bilbo in a solemn voice, looking at it with round eyes. He had never seen a thing that looked so big before.

"Of course not!" said Balin. "That is only the beginning of the Misty Mountains, and we have to get through, or over, or under those somehow..."

(This would have been perfect on film with Freeman and Stott, by the way - missed opportunity.) And Sam's very similar reaction to seeing Caradhras:
Sam in The Ring Goes South wrote:
"But I'm beginning to think it's time we got a sight of that Fiery Mountain, and saw the end of the Road, so to speak. I thought at first that this here Redhorn, or whatever its name is, might be it, till Gimli spoke his piece. A fair jaw-cracker dwarf language must be!"


A lot of good Gimli stuff in this chapter, and in the next few of course. You have to love his beaming pride talking about the mountains, and I share Sam's befuddlement at the dwarf names!

Boromir can be arrogant at times in the book, but we see early on that he does truly care about the Hobbits. One of his best character qualities.

By the way, I never realized so many people had a problem with Saruman's role at Caradhras in the movies. I always thought it was an effective way to give him more direct involvement as a villain (for film purposes)...but this is a book discussion, so enough on that.


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